Ethiopian Delegation Faces Fierce Resistance in the States

Pic : By Jerry Holt, Star Tribune Minneapolis, MN – The government of Ethiopia through an outreach outfit, “the Diaspora Affairs”, sends annual delegations to North America and Europe. For many years wherever the delegation went, there was a fierce resistance. In cities populated by Ethiopian dissidents and activists, the government delegation was almost always forced to cancel public meetings.

In recent years, to avoid public ridicule and protest, the Diaspora Affairs have chosen not to disclose information about meeting venues in advance. This also seems to have been proven impossible in close-knit communities like that of Minnesota.

The latest to face a heavy blow is a delegation led by Somali Regional President, Mr. Abdi Mohamud Omar. The news of Mr. Omar and two of his accomplices, Mr. Abdifitah Sheik Abdullahi and Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamed, visiting the United States was met with a nationwide protest from Ogadeni rights activists. On January 16, 2011, The Horn Institute of Peace & Social Justice issued a press release detailing the despicable human rights record of the aforementioned puppets of Ethiopia’s minority junta.

Referencing human rights reports by the U.S Department of State and other watchdog groups such as the Human Rights Watch, the press release noted, “Mr. Omar’s forces perpetuate arbitrary arrests, open executions, torture, imprisonment without fair trail, and rape as a weapon to suppress women who are defenseless against armed men.”

Huda Yusuf, the head of African Human Rights Monitor, echoed a similar point in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio’s Laura Yuen. She stated, “Omar has a track record of torturing and killing civilians” and his visit to East African communities is meant to “intimidate them.”

According to Yusuf, “for the residents in Minneapolis and North America who escaped Omar’s  terror, he's following them to the United States and following them to Europe, and he's trying to terrorize them as well." "This is a tragedy; this is just him trying to shut people up, even if they're in a free country," Yusuf said.

Attempts to block Mr. Omar’s delegation from entering the United States were of no avail. But Ogadeni-American community members braved the sub-zero temperature to protest in front of Marriott hotel in Minneapolis where the meeting was held. The meeting, closed to media and the public, was organized by individuals who have close ties with the Diaspora Affairs.

Attendees were hand-picked and checked off from an invite list. Nonetheless, a small number of community members managed to get inside the hotel’s ballroom. Meanwhile, over 200 people protested outside the hotel. According to those who managed to get inside, Mr. Omar and his delegation got off to shaky start repeating the same old investment and development propaganda.

{xtypo_sticky}Mr. Omar, the former Chief of Ethiopia’s security prior to becoming the President of the Somali region, went on to say the country is developed and democratic. It was at that point some in the audience couldn’t take it anymore. One Ogadeni national slapped Mr. Omar in the mouth and left him with a bloody nose. Mr. Omar was reportedly escorted to his room where he is believed to have been given a first aid treatment.{/xtypo_sticky}

In 2007, at a similar gathering, a delegation led by Muktar Kedir of the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO) was humiliated and beaten by Oromo youth in Minnesota. On the occasion, the OPDO delegation made an embarrassing run for its rooms, leaving behind among other things a digital camera and many other documents.

EthioMedia reports a meeting called for Tuesday Jan 25, 2011 by two newly appointed Ambassador’s Seyoum Mesfin and Girma Biru was “cancelled after human rights activists warned to protest.” Ethiopian activists and communities in North America and around the world are urged to continue to protest the visit of blood-drenched Ethiopian officials to their localities.




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Collaborative stories written or reported by OPride staff and contributors.

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